Memphis Belle (1990) / Action-War

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, and some sexuality
Running Time: 107 min.

Cast: Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Sean Astin, John Lithgow, David Strathairn, Tate Donovan, Harry Connick Jr., D.B. Sweeney, Billy Zane, Reed Diamond, Courtney Gains, Neil Giuntoli
Director: Michael Caton-Jones

Screenplay: Monte Merrick

 

 

Very loosely based (or basically, as close to complete fiction as one can get without being so) on a real B-17 bomber that fought in World War II, Memphis Belle is a formula Hollywood war drama all of the way.   It’s very standard stuff, with a colorful cast that prep for their big final mission, bickering at times, and coming together in others, until they completely rely on one another once their lives are in peril.  Like clockwork, Belle hits all of its predicted notes at the appropriate times, and along those lines, it is successful in making a solid war film that should keep most viewers riveted once the action begins. 

The film starts in 1943, as an American crew stationed in England are on the verge of their 25th and final mission, and this one proves to be their most dangerous yet, flying deep into German airspace to try to bomb a weapons factory without killing any of the civilian population surrounding it. 

Memphis Belle is heavy on sentimentality and nostalgia, as it tries to be an inspirational war story through and through.  As such, it does work, as we do become genuinely interested in the fate of the crew aboard, despite the fact that most of the build-up is manipulative.  The cast is very likeable, with Eric Stoltz (Anaconda, 2 Days in the Valley) giving a fine low-key performance, while crooner Harry Connick Jr. (Hope Floats, Basic) get to belt out a trademark tune. 

Memphis Belle is a well-crafted war flick with good bits of drama and camaraderie that should please those who enjoy rousing tales of heroism and valor, sort of like a sensationalized version of the HBO show, “Band of Brothers”.  Yes, it is a bit heavy-handed at times, and a bit syrupy at others, yet it delivers all of the good action and interest you might want in a in a Hollywood-ized version of WWII.

©2004 Vince Leo